We Fucked Up:
Celebrating Stories of Failure in Advertising With Fuckup Nights Toronto
Written by Katherine Pendrill
Photos by Andrew Pieroni
It’s no secret that the advertising industry loves to celebrate great creative. From the glitz and glamour of Cannes, to the online praise for clever concepts and headlines, it’s clear that everyone loves stories of success. But what no one seems to talk about is the many, many failures that came before the hits. For every “Got Milk?” or “Just Do It,” there’s a cringe-worthy soda commercial with one of the Jenner sisters (you know which one). In fact, many of the world’s top Chief Creative Officers have tales of finding themselves on the receiving end of a client’s wrath, yet somehow, they’ve lived to tell the tale.
To acknowledge and celebrate these catastrophic career blunders, we invited some of the city’s top CCO’s to Miami Ad School Toronto for a special, advertising edition of Fuckup Nights Toronto. With some liquid courage courtesy of Hop City Brewing Co., Carlos Moreno, Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, and Alex Shifrin, braved a room full of professional creatives to share their stories of failure in advertising.
“Sweat the small stuff.” Alex Shifrin
“Sweat the small stuff.”
– Alex Shifrin
Fuckup #1: In Russia, Scratch Cards Scratch You
Never one to turn down a challenge, Alex Shifrin of LP/AD was the first to share his fuckup tale by taking us back to his time working in Moscow, Russia. As Alex explains, it all started with an effort to please a new client with an instant scratchcard giveaway. At the time, Alex wondered what could possibly go wrong with a campaign where “everybody wins”? Apparently, a lot. After word that multiple people were winning the grand prize (actual cars), Alex and his team quickly realized that they had accidentally printed not just a few, but hundreds, of extra winning scratchcard. As Alex explains it — with a lovely venn diagram no less — this campaign blunder was the fuckup trifeca of stupid, irresponsible, and liable. The lesson? Sweat the small stuff because it might (literally) cost you.
“Just do great work and the money will come.” Nancy Crimi-Lamanna
“Just do great work and the money will come.”
Fuckup #2: Creatives Before Cash
Following Alex’s major “oh shit” moment, FCB Canada’s CCO Nancy Crimi-Lamanna took to the stage to share a couple of profanity-inducing tales of her own. Though Nancy jokes that her first fuckup was “getting pregnant twice,” what really sidetracked her career was following the money, instead of the work — “danger pay” is real, guys. Her second fuckup? Staying in a job that didn’t help her grow professionally. As she warns the young creatives in the audience, make sure you’re getting a least one great piece for your book each year, and if not, go somewhere that will help you do that. Her final fuckup? Not treating herself as a business, or as Nancy puts it, thinking about “Me Inc.” In other words, you’ve got to have a plan for where you want to be and how you’re going to get there — a lesson that even those outside of advertising can take to heart.
“Always get the client to agree to the script.” Carlos Moreno
“Always get the client to agree to the script.”
Fuckup #3: Farmers and Commercials Don’t Mix
To round out the night, Carlos Moreno of Cossette shared what started off as a heartwarming tale about a farmer and some strawberries. As Carlos explains, the initial concept was a beautifully honest ad about how one company was helping to support America’s small family farms. Precious. Or at least, that’s what Carlos and his partner Peter thought. In fact, they thought the idea was so great that it was best to leave the script a secret until the day of the shoot. Spoiler, not everyone loves surprises. As they would soon find out, this is precisely where things went from fantastic, to fuckup. Several verbal smackdowns and one physical altercation later, the creative duo learned an important lesson about keeping the talent happy and about cultivating a strong relationship with directors.
It’s clear that advertising is full of fuckups, but it’s also clear that the lessons learned from fucking up can help to catapult creatives to the top. If you’re ready to brave the fuckups and start your own advertising career, learn more about Miami Ad School Toronto’s Copywriting and Art Direction programs.
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